Orlando came riding into the All-Star Break seemingly having put something together in putting up some impressive efforts in winning four of five heading to the break. Maybe this team was back on the uptick or finally finding its footing.
Count Wednesday’s return from the break as a slip. How much of one will not be determined until Friday’s game against Oklahoma City. The Kings outscored the Magic 32-21 in the fourth quarter and ended the game 13-7 after the game was tied at 98 in a 111-105 win at Amway Center.
The fourth quarter is going to drive Magic fans crazy for a long time. Stan Van Gundy is probably losing sleep over it too — at least until he can get his team back in practice Thursday. The Kings scored 32 points in the final quarter, turning a game it looked like Orlando could run away with into a puzzling defensive performance and a win left on the board.
No doubt, Orlando could have defeated a struggling Sacramento team at home. No doubt they should have.
Once again, we are left questioning defensive effort — something you should never question — and wondering why the offense is struggling on a team with so many offensive weapons.
The Kings shot 52.5 percent for the game and posted a 111.0 offensive efficiency. Sacramento was able to score and score and score. Even with Dwight Howard in there, Sacramento was able to score with great ball movement. Try 30 assists on 42 field goals. Add on the Kings shooting 6 for 12 from long range and getting to the line for 27 free throw attempts and you struggle to figure out what happened to what used to be one of the top defenses in the league.
Statistically it still is. But our eyes are not telling us that it is.
Look at what Beno Udrih and Jermaine Taylor were able to do. Udrih scored 18 points and had 10 assists while shooting 7 for 13. Taylor had a team-high 21 points, making nine of his 12 shots in just 28 minutes. Orlando could not control those guys, making them look like the absent Tyreke Evans was playing.
Sacramento was able to run its offense and the assist numbers show that. Orlando was unable to disrupt that offense and paid the consequences. Not a good sign for the start of the stretch run.
Howard Did His Part
Over the last week or so, I have been calling on Dwight Howard to do more as a leader to push and prod his teammates to come with him. He has done just about everything he can on the floor to lead his team.
He continued that run of MVP performances with 31 poitns and 17 rebounds, including 11-for-12 shooting from the foul line. Yet again, Orlando could not take advantage of a great Dwight Howard performance.
And Howard vented his frustration after the game. He apparently has been doing it throughout the games too. He is on his teammates and they are just not responding. If what Howard is saying is true, there is a much deeper problem with this team.
But it is not like no one else came with him tonight.
Hedo Turkoglu scored 19 points on 7-for-10 shooting and eight assists. You might be able to count it among one of his best games since returning to Orlando. Jameer Nelson too played decently with 15 points and five asissts.
However, he added five turnovers and the Magic had 17 turnovers. That almost counteracted the 19 turnovers the Kings committed. Not helping either was that 23 of Orlando’s 36 rebounds came from Howard (17) and Jason Richardson (6). No one else did much on the boards to help out.
Yeah, Orlando is going to be leaning as hard on Howard as ever before. And he will keep producing these incredible numbers. Will the Magic finally join him?
Live by the 3…
I tuned into NBATV tonight after the game and Mike Fratello said something that seems pretty accurate about Orlando. He said the first thing he always does when he looks at a Magic box score is look at the 3-point shooting.
Tonight, the Magic shot 8 for 28. Take out Turkoglu’s 4-for-7 shooting and that makes the team 4 for 21.
Not good. Not good at all.
Orlando’s shooting funk seems to be continuing. And the over reliance on 3-point shooting still seems to hamper this offense. Orlando shot 44.9 percent from the floor. Take out the 3-point shooting and the Magic were shooting 52.5 percent. That says something.
It certainly spelled a loss tonight as Sacramento allowed Orlando to settle for 3-pointers and Orlando failed to get stops.